Yarning with Mad Martha: Dumpling Cats

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Cheerio my dears! It’s been quite a while, hasn’t it, since we last sat down for a yarn so I am making up for that dearth of craft-related natter with a charming crochet book.  Dumpling Cats: Crochet and Collect Them All! by Sarah Sloyer is a book of amigurumi patterns based on that popular app and game, Neko Atsume, or Kitty Collector for the non Japanese-speakers.  We received a copy from Dover Publications via Netgalley and here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Waffles is a relaxed feline who loves to read, and Cheeks just can’t get enough to eat. These fun-loving characters are just two of the 25 dumpling-shaped crochet cats in this whimsical collection. The cuddly crochet critters were inspired by the Pokémon™-like craze Neko Atsume, a game that enables you to attract cats to your backyard and “collect” them. Each little dumpling has a name and personality points that add up to big fun!

You don’t have to be an expert to crochet and collect these adorable kitties — the patterns are suitable for crocheters of all skill levels. Easy-to-follow instructions are accompanied by full-color photos and simple drawings. The directions explain every stage, from ears to tail, and some of the patterns include accessories and costume items. Plus, there are bonus patterns for a cat bed, food bowls, and more!

dumpling cats

As craft and pattern books go, this one is quite high spec.  The patterns are clearly set out with extra pictures showing how to assemble the pieces, which is always helpful for those who like to see things step by step.  Between the 25 kitty patterns are “bonus” patterns for accessories such as bowls and beds so crafters can provide a bit of comfort for their crocheted kitties.  I jumped in with the pattern for Dusty, who is pictured on the left of the cover, but since the mini-fleshlings prefer Pokemon at the moment, I modified the ears and tail to make an Eevee instead.

The beauty of this book is that it is perfect for beginner amigurumists, because the patterns are simple to follow and result in a small plush that can be created in only a few hours.  More importantly though, from an experienced crocheter’s perspective, the patterns are basic enough that they provide a variety of good base shapes that can be modified, if you have the skills, thereby opening up a whole range of creatures that could be made.  I’m already planning a Pikachu mod based on one of the plumper shapes.

Apart from the uses that I can see this having in terms of creating new spin-offs using these patterns, the book didn’t entirely work for me because I prefer working with larger sized plushies.  The small plushies produced here, that fit into the palm of your hand, aren’t as forgiving when it comes to little mistakes that can be made here and there while following the pattern.  Again though, the small sized pieces mean that a finished piece that looks pretty much like the picture is achievable for those new to the craft.

I can see myself coming back to this book to gain inspiration from the adorably squishy body shapes of the dumpling cats and I would definitely recommend it to beginners and more experienced amigurumists alike.

Yours in yarn,

Mad Martha

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Bruce’s Lucky Dip: New Year, New Hobby 2017 Edition

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I haven’t run a Lucky Dip post since 2015 apparently, so it’s high time I got back into it.  In case you are unaware, in my Lucky Dip posts I pop a search term into the Book Depository’s mighty search engine and bring you the most chuckle-worthy results.  I last ran the New Year, New Hobby lucky dip in 2015 (was it really that long ago?!) and have decided to repeat the performance today.  Sit back and peruse these ideas for potential new ways to spend your time in 2017.

For the person who remains traumatised by 2016 and has begun the year with a grim outlook:

diy-coffins

Do-It-Yourself Coffins For Pets and People: A Schiffer Book for Woodworkers Who Want to Be Buried in Their Work by Dale Power

For the person who remains traumatised by 2016 and has decided to take matters into their own hands:

diy-drones

DIY Drones for the Evil Genius by Ian Cinnamon

For the person traumatised by 2016 who would rather forget the whole thing and masquerade as an animal:

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Animal Hats: 15 Patterns to Knit and Show Off by Vanessa Mooncie

For the person traumatised by 2016 who would rather forget the whole thing and BECOME an animal:

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How to Transform Yourself into Any Animal: A DIY Guide to Surgical Procedures by Orca Man

For the person excited about new beginnings, and too much time (and too many hamsters) on their hands:

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Homemade for Hamsters: Over 20 Fun Projects Anyone Can Make, Including Tunnels, Towers, Dens, Swings, Ladders and More by Carin Oliver

Or indeed, too many cats:

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Cat Castles: 20 Cardboard Habitats You Can Build Yourself by Carin Oliver

And finally, one for the booklovers…a sensible one, I promise:

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Bookcases: From Salvage to Storage (14 DIY Designer Projects) by Aurelie Drouet

I hope you’ve found something in this lot to inspire the creative juices for the coming year.  Do tell me how you plan to spend your down time and whether you plan to write an amusingly-titled book about it, won’t you?

Until next time,

Bruce

Brick History: A Read-it-if Review

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Today’s Read-it-if Review is for a nonfiction title that will be an absolute winner with anyone who has ever been a fan of Lego and its uses.  We were excited and more than a little grateful to receive a copy of Brick History: Amazing Historical Scenes to Build From Lego by Warren Elsmore from the good folk at Allen & Unwin.  Rather than keep you waiting any longer (which is as painful as stepping on a Lego brick), we’ll get stuck in with the blurb from Allen & Unwin’s website:

From the dawn of time to the first civilizations, we look at the events which took place over the course of the first millennium; events which shook the world and changed the course of history.

Using LEGO bricks, artist Warren Elsmore and his team recreate stunning historic scenes, from the beginning of life in the pre-historic era right through to the inauguration of Barack Obama.

Brick History is a celebration of humanity and its achievements, and of moments in time that changed the course of history. To faithfully recreate each scene or image, Warren uses only standard LEGO bricks-and a lot of imagination! Choosing the right piece, color or orientation is crucial to this process, enabling the models to reflect the spirit of the time through these iconic plastic bricks.

As the book walks through history, the LEGO recreations draw from a 60-year history of the toy itself and tie into many of the company’s most popular themes. In this way, Brick History reveals the adaptability of LEGO to its full extent.

Whether you are a fan of LEGO, interested in world history, or just fascinated by the use of LEGO as a modeling medium, this book promises to take you on a fascinating journey into the past and around the globe.

brick history
Read-it-if:
* you are a teacher looking for the kind of book for your classroom library that will have your students tearing each other’s eyes out in an attempt to be the first to lay hands on it during silent reading time
* you have always wanted to know how to make round shapes from square bricks 
* you find learning historical facts and dates interminably boring and would prefer that such events were jazzed up with hilarious Lego head facial expressions
* you’ve ever considered creating a tiny working model of an orrery, depicting the process by which the Sun, moon and earth orbit one another, but were stymied due to a lack of easy to follow pictorial instructions
* you really freakin’ love Lego
What an awesome concept for a book!  We were palpably excited on seeing this title come up in the catalogue and couldn’t wait to flick through its attractive, easy-to-hold, fully illustrated format when it arrived.  This is going to be a no-brainer success for anyone, young or old, who enjoys Lego.  Obviously, the focus of this book is on historical events, but we were surprised (and delighted) to note that in between the historical depictions are instructions on how to make various related items, including but not limited to, a tiny model of the RMS Titanic, the aforementioned orrery, an Egyptian shadow clock and a brickish representation of Mahatma Gandhi.
The choice of these DIY models is inspired, because many feature building techniques that the run-of-the-mill Lego enthusiast may not have previously encountered, including how to create curves using straight bricks, and methods of building that allow for multiple changes in colour in a limited space, for instance.  I can imagine young builders really getting stuck into this title and developing their building skills quite quickly, before going and showing off to their friends.  The beginning of the book also features some handy notes on how to take photos of your completed models to show them off in their best light.
The only problem I had while reading is that the historical events selected here are very America and Euro-centric. Obviously, in covering everything from the Big Bang onward in a finite amount of pages, there has to be some subjective selection regarding what gets put in and what gets left out.  I was disappointed though at the lack of events from outside Europe and the US.  For Asia, India and Oceania as a whole, we are only treated to six events out of seventy-six and of these, only the construction of the Terracotta Army and the handover of Hong Kong back to China (itself a Euro-dominated event) are depicted as a double page spread; the rest are given in instructional format.  Africa is only represented in the election of Nelson Mandela as president of South Africa and again, only in an instructional format, rather than as a historical scene.  Other readers may not even notice this, but I would have liked to have seen a broader scope of human history represented here.
Despite that small disappointment, this is still a ripping tome that will have adventurous builders busting out their obscure brick pieces and getting to work.  I’d definitely recommend grabbing this one for your permanent shelf while I seek out the already-published titles in Elsmore’s series: Brick City, Brick Wonders, Brick Vehicles and Brick Flicks.
Until next time,
Bruce

Bruce’s Lucky Dip: New Year, New Hobby?

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It’s been a ridiculously long time since I last posted a Lucky Dip, so what better time to do it than my final post of the year!  For those of you unfamiliar with my Lucky Dip feature, it involves me typing a random search term into the Book Depository’s search engine and bringing you the wacky, unexpected or just plain hilarious results.  Today’s Lucky Dip will feature that evergreen search term, DIY.  I invite you to sit back, relax and allow these offerings to inspire you to try a new (and eyebrow-raising) hobby in 2016.

First up, for those who like a bit of a tipple during the holiday season, it’s time to collect up all those wine corks and get cracking on….

DIY Wine Corks: 35+ Cute and Clever Cork Crafts by Melissa Averinos

diy wine corks

I would suggest springing this book on your guests AFTER they have imbibed said tipples and then see who can make the best crafty item from the book.  If corks are not your thing however, you can always fall back on good old stretchable rubber with…

The DIY Balloon Bible For All Seasons by Sandi Masori & Rachel Porter

the diy balloon bible

I’m quite impressed that this book markets itself as something for ALL seasons.  Much better value than a DIY balloon book that only features one or two seasons.

If art and craft seems a bit tedious to you, why not spice up your life with the…

Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments: All Lab, No Lecture by Robert Bruce Thompson

illustrated guide to home chemistry experiments

But don’t blame me when the police come knocking after they’ve been tipped off by alert (but not alarmed) neighbours who are worried about what you might be cooking up in your home lab.

Chemistry too mundane and pedestrian?  Looking for something totally wacky and unexpected?  Been wanting to refashion your leftover tinfoil into a stylish new hat? Well look no further than…

DIY Satellite Platforms: Building a Space-Ready General Base Picosatellite for Any Mission by Sandy Antunes

diy satellite platforms

I will be the first to admit that I have absolutely no idea what a space-ready general base picosatellite is, but it doesn’t sound like the kind of thing one could whip up at home.  Please someone buy this book, try it out and get back to me.

If satellites are a bit too airy-fairy for you and you’re looking for something more down-to-earth, I have just the thing. Literally.

Compost Toilets: A Practical DIY Guide by Dave Darby

compost toilets

The less said, the better, on this one, I think.  If, however, you are looking to move into a more environmentally friendly, chemical-free lifestyle in 2016, you may well be interested in taking a slightly less drastic step in the bathroom with…

DIY Toothpaste: Teach Me Everything I Need to Know About Homemade Toothpaste in 30 Minutes by 30 Minute Reads

diy toothpaste

 The perfect starter present for that friend who will spend hours bleating on about the dangers of modern living on every social media site going, but can’t devote more than 30 minutes to creating a solution.

I hope this Lucky Dip has inspired you to widen your horizons for 2016.  You can thank me later for jazzing up your list of New Year’s Resolutions.

And while you’re thinking of challenges to undertake in the new year, why not have a look at the reading challenge hosted by the Shelf-denizens: The Title Fight Reading Challenge 2016!

Title Fight Button 2016

We’d love to have you aboard!

Until next year,

Bruce

Yarning with Mad Martha about…Crochet Your Own Adventure (Let’s Go Camping!)..

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I’m excited.

If you enjoy the outdoors, camping or textile crafts of any kind, then I have something today that will make your year.   It’s a crochet book by Kate Bruning (a canny Australian, don’t you know?) and it’s called Let’s Go Camping! From Cabins to Caravans Crochet Your Own Camping Adventure.

Finally!

A way to enjoy camping without having to worry about getting that horrid smoky smell out of my dreadlocks!

Now I know that title alone would have you bouncing on the balls of your feet and I will admit to being more than a little feverish when I discovered that Simon & Schuster Australia were deigning to send me a copy, but try and contain your excitement while you read the blurb – there’s plenty of time yet for giddy flailing!

Go glamping without the threat of unpredictable weather and nasty creepy crawlies, and instead crochet your own adorable camping scene that will keep any child entertained for hours and celebrate all that is great about camping.

Reminiscent of vintage camping memorabilia, you can create a nostalgic collection of crochet projects encompassing all aspects of outdoor life.

With mix and match projects ranging from vintage or Airstream caravans and ice cream trucks, to tents and teepees with all the camping paraphernalia of sleeping bags, backpacks and a log fire, as well as mountain and forest scenery you can create your own outdoor world. Or why not craft an alternative camping scene with a classic narrow boat, or a wooden lakeside cabin which can open up to reveal immaculately decorated insides.

Instructions for play mats will give children a fantastic base for playing, allowing them to create games and stimulate their own imagination.

let's go camping cover

Isn’t that cover scene just gorgeous? Being an avid crochet fan, I was itching to get at this tome and I nearly wept with joy at the innocent, light-hearted jollity with which the little Playmobil people were going about their outdoorsy business. The further I flicked through the playscenes, the more I was transported back to a simpler time when families had time to spend together and it didn’t really matter if dad insisted on wearing that silly towelling hat and tiny shorts, embarrassing you in front of the people from two caravans over.

Clearly, my crochet hooks could not remain inactive with such whimsical fun waiting to be created and so I dived into the patterns. Before I get into the technical nitty gritty, allow me to show you the fruits of my labour, as enjoyed by Bruce, Toothless and some Kiwi backpacker named Jono they picked up along the way:

camping wide shot 2_Fotor

As you can see, with the help of this book, I was able to create a natural, camping utopia in the climate-controlled environment of our own shelf! What a joy to see the excitement on Bruce’s stony face as he realised I could bring the outside in! Honestly, it’s moments like that that make this worthwhile.

Clearly, I only made a selection of things from the book – specifically the tent, the campfire, a mountain, a bobble hat and a scarf. I also whipped up a sun hat for Bruce to my own pattern. And while this picture may give the impression of a sweet, countryside idyll, it was about four rounds into completing the mountain – the first pattern that I tackled –that I realised that those of us who have taken up crafting since the advent of the internet have indeed been spoiled by sites like Pinterest and Youtube.

You see, when grabbing patterns from the internet, one often has the benefit of picture or video tutorials. This book was written in plain patterns and while this might be fine for more experienced crochet crafters, I suspect it would create steep learning curve for beginners.

I consider myself to be moderately skilled at crochet, but even I had some difficulties with items I thought I would find easy. Consider the mountain – mine being on the left and the image from the book on the right…

mountain_Fotor_Fotor_Collage

…while they are pretty close and I am happy with my finished mountain, I admit to wanting to stab myself in the eye with the crochet hook at multiple points during the making of it. This particular pattern has a number of fiddly bits that need to be sewn into the body of the pattern and without the benefit of imagery to guide me, I found it very tricky to figure out exactly how and where the insets were meant to be added.

Here’s my finished campfire, the crowning glory of our pretend camping adventure:

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Again, I’m quite happy with the finished product, but again, it was fiddly and required a lot of sewing and the inclusion of a few bamboo skewers, which turned out to be more of a trial than I had anticipated. This was not the only project in the book that required bamboo skewers. The tent – which I found the easiest pattern to follow – also needed bamboo skewers added to create the structure (as well as straws, but I didn’t have any straws and frankly couldn’t be bothered going out to buy any).

Easy peasy, thought I, despite my experiences with the campfire logs.

Yeah. Not so much.

Although, I have always wanted to have one of those Pinterest “Nailed It!” photos to my name and making this tent allowed me to do it. Behold!

meme tent

So yeah, there were a lot of bits in the book that I found trickier than I thought they would be. Other bits, such as the hats and scarf, were great fun and super easy to complete. Toothless’s scarf was but the work of a moment and it was nothing at all to add a few tassels as requested by the recipient:

toothless scarf

Overall, I am very pleased to have found this book, but I would caution against jumping into the projects contained therein without proper preparation. The book suggests particular yarns and hook sizes, which I completely ignored because (a) I’m a rebel and (b) as I mentioned before, the whole “going out to purchase supplies” bother, but I have learned that following the pattern INCLUDING paying attention to the suggested materials often reaps better results.

Also, these patterns are probably going to take more time than you think, when you factor in the fiddly finishing off bits. But a book like this will just keep on giving when you consider that apart from giving detailed instructions for the creation of all manner of really cool items that can be used as toys, props and gifts, it is just a delight to flick through – both for aesthetics and inspiration.

I have to say thanks again to S&S Australia for providing me with a copy – you can be sure I’m not finished with the patterns just yet. We’re moving into summer after all.

Ice cream truck, anyone?

Yours in yarn,

Mad Martha

 

 

 

 

Awardiness: Liebster nom nom….and a sneak-peek at a new award!

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Well howdy friends…the charming and delightful Sarah at www.stayathomeeducator.com has seen fit to honour me with a Liebster award for beginning bloggers.  Needless to say, my stone chest inflated with pride when I received the notification.

This award requires the following tasks:

  • List 11 things about yourself.
  • Answer your nominator’s 11 questions.
  • Choose up to 11 bloggers with less than 200 followers and ask them your questions.
  • Inform your nominees of their award nominations

So here we are:

Eleven things: There is a mirror placed directly opposite my shelf in my line of vision. I am getting sick of the view. The youngest fleshling in the house spotted me today and said “gargoyle” – or some approximation of it.  My middle name is Octavius.  I was the eighth shelf-related creation of my particular craftsperson.  Mad Martha and I are planning some excursions in the near future.  I am currently seated between Jon Ronson’s The Psychopath Test, and Susie Orbach’s The Impossiblity of Sex. I found both books mildly entertaining, but slightly disappointing overall.  Christmas decorations have yet to be hung in my dwelling.  I fear that I will be adorned with a silly Santa-ish hat in the foreseeable future.  I enjoy reading works by Dr. Irvin D. Yalom.

Eleven answers: I began blogging at the urging of some fellow shelf denizens who felt the world could benefit from my vast deposits of knowledge.  Depending on the content, it usually takes me up to half an hour to write a post.  My hobbies are reading, blogging, throwing things off the shelf to simulate poltergeist activity.  I have many favourite books and most of them have been mentioned in at least one of my posts.  If  I could travel anywhere in the world, I wouldn’t be fussy.  A typical day for me involves reading, sitting still, and throwing things off the shelf to simulate poltergeist activity.  I visit facebook, wordpress and The Book Depository every day.  I can’t recommend a movie, as my shelf is not placed in sight of the television.  I have multiple email accounts – specifically, more than two and less than two thousand.  Both pie and cake, thank you.  Books inspire my blog posts.

Regarding the last two tasks, I will refrain at this point from nominating others, but stay tuned my friends, because a new award may be seen on the block soon enough.  A fantabulous, unique, exciting new award…..

Until next time,

Bruce